I am growing raspberries a small patch of raspberry bushes. I have cut them back for the fall. I would like to know what I need to do to care for these plants. What should I amend the soil with and in what season? I have a lot of clay in my soil, but have amended it with my compost over the years.
Since you have already cut your raspberry canes back, I presume you have autumn-fruiting varieties. Their annual cycle is maintained by pruning all of the canes to ground level each winter. If not cut back, they fruit again. A bigger crop is gained from strong new canes. Generally it is best to do any pruning in late winter, when the plant is dormant. A sheltered site is advisable, but one that also has good air circulation. Walls and fences do not provide that. Raspberries are very prone to viral diseases, although there are new varieties more resistant to these inherent problems. There is no cure for viral diseases. The plants must be dug up and discarded. Any suckers from overlooked root fragments must be removed and the bed not replanted with raspberries for at least five years.
If your canes survive the winter, apply a general fertilizer along the rows in March. Water it in and apply a mulch layer of well-rotted compost, which will keep the soil cool and moist in the summer and hold down weeds. Peat and bark are less effective than good compost. Raspberries are a thirsty crop and must be watered regularly, especially when fruit is swelling. Although your soil has considerable clay, your amendment with compost is right on track. Amended clay is a far more preferable soil base for raspberries than a sandy loam. A sand-based soil drains too quickly for this fruit crop’s needs. Opt for a drip hose to avoid excessive water on the leaves. When cultivating out weeds, avoid hoeing too deeply and damaging roots growing near the surface. This will stimulate the plant to sucker, a survival technique, since it thinks it’s under attack.